The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce—touted as the oldest continuous business operation in Fort Frances—will take a step back in time this Friday when staff don period costumes to mark its 100th birthday here.
The bank’s actual anniversary was July 18 but interior renovations caused a delay in the festivities, which will include sandwiches and a cake, refreshments, a collection of bank memorabilia from the Fort Frances Museum, a draw for 100 loonies, and a vintage automobile parked out front.
Originally known as the Bank of Commerce, it opened here in 1899 under the management of J.A. Smith in a small white building at the corner of Central Avenue and Church Street (where the Ontario Travel Information Centre now sits).
Then after a short stint on the 100 block of Church Street near the site of the old Fort Frances Times building, the bank relocated to a brand new building at the corner of Scott Street and Mowat Avenue around 1915—and has remained there ever since.
In 1961, the Imperial Bank of Canada (which had come to town in 1916) amalgamated with the Bank of Commerce to become the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
Needless to say, much has changed since that first day 100 years ago, when tellers used inkwells and calculated account information by hand.
“The pace of change itself and product innovation are the biggest changes,” branch manager Darryl Bishop noted earlier this week.
“[We’re in] an accelerated pace of change. Things were pretty simple in those days and there wasn’t a whole lot of innovation taking place,” he said.
The playing field has widened, too, with financial industry contenders that now include Investors Group, ING Bank, Wells Fargo, and the Internet.
“We aren’t seeing [the Internet] to the extent that we will be,” admitted Bishop. “It’s growing exponentially.”
“Right now we’re betwixt and between. We have clients who have done both personal and electronic banking,” he continued.
“But the time will come when people have grown up [banking] only one way—electronically—and when that happens, there will be even greater growth,” he reasoned.